Back bands vs seatbacks

I see references to back bands and wonder what the advantage/disadvantage a back band has over the “regular” seat back found on most kayak seats. I am a recreational paddler but am advancing soon to open-sea tours.

Back bands don’t stick up
and get in the way when wearing a skirt. Some of the seats will fit under the skirt, but still poke up a bit which impairs your ability to lay back for rolling.


In general, for more advanced paddling the recommendation is to not lean against any seat back or back band in order to maintain proper rotation thru the stroke. Those who do that can be spotted from a long way off - what you’ll hear referred to as barcalounger paddlers. The seat backs encourage this habit in a much more extreme way than a backband will, which really only supports the base of the spine rather than the greater amount you think of with a true seat back. That small bit of support comes into play for rolling and some other specific situations, but by and large your posture should come from a strong core and abs rather than the seat. (for any kind of kayaking actually)

As above, a high seat back is not only useless but prohibitive to most of what you need to be able to do in a sea kayak.

Torso Rotation
the hard backrest does not allow you to rotate well…

a backband is supple enough to move with your rotations…

then there are those who use neither…real rotation!

The best thing I ever did
to improve my posture was to get rid of any back support.

I don’t miss it at all.

Butt Stop
The two best uses I have for back bands in my boats are as butt stops (keeping my butt from pushing past the back edge of the seat when peddling hard) and as anchoring point for cord/straps to keep stuff stowed behind the seat from falling out.

Yeah, I’m trying to go without a
backband in one of my ww kayaks. Good for the abs, encourages leaning forward or back to load/unload the bow or stern, and also makes it easier for me to get my huge frame out of the boat. I did put in an angled minicell backrest on the front end of the rear foam wall, just so I could lay back and relax when floating the easy parts.

A long time ago back injury
means the need for more back support than I can get from a backband. I’ve been tweaking a block of foam to fit behind the seat of my Caribou but have not yet gotten it right. Better than the back band that came with the boat, though.


The thinking on this question …
has changed. And as you might expect when there is a transition from old ideas to new ideas there is confusion. WW kayakers for a long time have insisted they need to be “tight in their boat” in order to have maximum control. This is especially true of WW kayakers who are playboaters. But it is not at all clear that these people are correct. Control has many dimensions including freedom to transfer weight. In any kayak the ability to control the distribution of weight is a key idea in controlling what the kayak does. If you cannot lean back in a kayak you sacrifice control. If you want to roll a WW kayak then it seems like a tight backband helps out. But for a paddler who has developed torso muscles a tight backband is a hindrance to rolling, even if you do a conventional roll like a C-to-C. I agree with the people who say “get rid of the back rest make the back band loose.”

People who fall over a lot…
prefer backbands. Their clumsy nature is evident in both physical and mental agility. The physical is most easily illustrated in their tendancy to splash over and sometimes exit their craft. The mental is illustrated by their preference to sacrifice comfort for the oft occassions their physical agility fails them.

However, if you are of strong mind and body, simply get a nice comfy seat with a back, that may be adjusted, and simply paddle upright. It is MUCH easier than many “experts” would want you to believe. This also eliminates many hours of instruction learning various rolls to compensate for your general lack of skill to remain upright. I admit, this is not the most popular choice of those that make a living off teaching folks to fall over and get up again. But it works quite well for those of us that insist on paddling right-side-up.


– Last Updated: Oct-13-08 9:37 AM EST –

I got a chuckle from the post. But the relationship between comfy seat backs and ability to balance a boat upright is... :-)

1 Like

Re Entry
What he is saying is a seat back sticking up makes it hard to get back into the boat after a wet exit. It is hard to do a lay back if you do that type or roll.

The back support is grreat and much better for those that are good enough in a boat to NEVER had to do rolls, self rescues, wild braces, wear low cut tight spray skirts.

For those so expert a seat back does the job.

My paddling is such I have to roll the odd time (once a year on average) and may have to do a wet exit. I am not supple enough at 51 to easily do the magic of dealing gracefully with a seat back so I dopped them all and have none of it.

My explorer does nicely without the NDK band and a seat back.

When I can paddle confidently knowing I will never need a rescue I will get a seat back with a lumbar support and perhaps thos tiny massage things like on the Lazy Boys chairs that cost about the same as a Valley Nordcapp.

Well actually, zenrider, I can’t see how
using a backband and falling over a lot are related. But you are clearly correct in saying that most people can stay upright long enough to reap the creature comforts of a full seatback.

However, there are special environments where people often do not remain upright, and do not expect to remain upright. It’s like stunt flying. Full seatbacks do not seem too common in those environments.

seat backs
I have back bands, hard seat backs, and what I would consider sort of hybrids between the two (P&H’s tabs on bottom of seat back that loosely insert into the top of the back of the seat to hold in place, Nigel Foster’s hard plastic back band that isn’t attached to the seat and is shaped like a narrow back band). None rise above the coaming, and the only thing I typically notice on a seat back is when I rub some point on my back raw, or a poorly adjusted seat can cause some stiffness. Properly adjusted, they are all fine by me, and I love to roll, brace, just play around in the water, etc. I don’t use a layback roll or brace in a “combat” situation, but if you want to be able to lay back on the deck, that may be more of a “type of kayak” question than a seat question, although who knows, maybe someone has designed a greenland style kayak with a high seat back? There are great rough-water boats that have plastic seat backs - just not high seat backs.

Square butt

– Last Updated: Oct-13-08 1:22 PM EST –

Unless you have a square butt, a seat back cannot provide the positive support provided by a backband. When you are sitting upright and rotating your torso, that is.

Sitting upright, rotating your torso, and using your legs as much as possible to power the boat are all related -- and are all improved by getting rid of that seat back.

Doing without either backband or seatback allows good torso rotation but doesn't allow you to power the boat using your legs. (This is true unless you paddle a boat with a aggressively contoured seat pan that keeps your butt from sliding backward. My Ruahine Swallow and the NC 17 are good examples of this).

A backband that can easily be loosened (to allow maximum layback) is the best option for the performance-minded paddler.

mocking of course…
The back band is preferred because it allows for lay back during rolling. Those inclined to fall over, will find it easier to roll upright with less restriction from a back band.

The seat back is preferred by those of us who stay upright, in all conditions, no matter what. I want the Shiatzu version on my next boat.

So the relationship is, those who cannot seem to stay upright usually prefer backbands.

Those of us too inflexible to bend over the back deck regardless of boat design, seat design, backband design, are much better served by enjoying the comfort that comes from a decent adjustable seat back. Our tenacity for not falling over is completely in sync with additionally rewarding creature comforts.


– Last Updated: Oct-14-08 9:02 AM EST –

You say that you are beginning to advance to more "Sea Kayaking". I think a seat is OK as long as it doesn't stick up higher than the back deck. Once you learn to rescue yourself or others you will find that a seat back that sticks up higher than the back deck catches on the PFD or stabs you in the gut and makes it an absolute nightmare to get back into the boat using any conventional rescues. One of the reasons that the back band was always used is because nothing more is needed. As rec boats appeared, they added the barker lounge with drink holders to sell boats with no concern to any kayaking skills.